When people think about meditation there are many visions like a deep trance, samadhi (absorption) state or a fantastic journey, all kinds of experiences.
Sometimes you might wonder how you get from where you are to there.
Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated or ‘way out’ and maybe the most common goal for meditators is a calm, peaceful mind. One of the best meditation techniques to accomplish this is breathing meditation.
With breathing meditation you deal with something that is quite immediate (breath) and for this reason it is super relatable. Calm breathing for some may seem like a dream but with good practice it can become your norm.
Meditation is a Skill
It’s true, meditation is a skill, and it takes consistent practice to get comfortable at it. Like any other skill, meditation takes time and effort to grasp, conquer and master.
With meditation what’s most important is to meditate consistently. It’s one of those things where the journey is as important as the destination, and to have a ‘good trip’ you need to focus and apply yourself.
Starting the Day with Meditation
Many people who meditate like to start the day with meditation, transitioning from the sleep mind into a bright, positive day. When I start the day with meditation ir opens up the choices for direction in the day and starts things going with good clarity and freshness.
Meditation is so effective that I can meditate successfully in the morning even before drinking a cup of coffee, then the coffee is like an extra treat.
It not only leaves me with a tangible positive feeling to start my day, but the ripple effects of meditating in the morning extend throughout other important areas of my day and life.
About Breathing Meditation
When I meditate in the morning I like to start the day with a breathing meditation. It helps you focus and get centered right from the start because the breath is usually quite calm in the morning. It also helps to build your breathing meditation habit for the times when calming the breath might be a bit more trying.
There are several reasons that we focus on the breath and we can mention them here. First, some people might wonder, “what use is it to watch the breath?”
It might seem a bit odd or even useless to do, but the breathing goes on all the time and we are quite used to seeing it, we even take it for granted.
Meditation is well known for calming you or slowing you down, and with it we find time to think, just to ‘be.’
The breath is usually constant, flowing in a regular, even way. If we watch the breath we can tap into its even flow and regulate the body and mind, which makes for good meditation. The ancient scriptures mention how calming the breath can quiet the mind and with the mind quiet it is optimal to enter into meditation.
So let’s introduce here the method for breathing meditation and see how it is done.
How to Watch the Breath
1.) For watching the breath and meditating you should find a seat that is comfortable for you, usually on the floor. You can sit on a pillow just be sure to pick a place where you are not disturbed by people or things and plan on sitting for a while. If sitting is difficult for you then you might want to sit in a chair. Remember that you will be sitting for a while.
2.) See that there are not too many distractions around you and take a moment just to breathe. Notice how the breath rises and sets with each inhale and exhale. Watch your breathing as you go: inhale, pause, then exhale, and allow a pause also after the exhale.
Continue doing this and feel the natural rhythm of the constant breath, rising and setting. Your breath rises and sets as you inhale and exhale and you start to see the cycle of breathing – it’s actually a four part cycle – inhale, pause, exhale, pause.
If you want you can count each part to yourself, 1 2 3 4 as you complete each cycle of breathing, or some people like to just count the exhale as the completion of a cycle.
3.) Watching your breath rise and then set gets you into a routine, you start to feel the rhythm of it: in and out, in and out, up and down, up and down – this is the breathing cycle.
You can try to find your point of breathing, the place where you notice the breath. Some people notice it at the tip of the nose, others watch the abdomen rise and set. See if you notice your own place, where the in breath and out breath are felt in the same place.
4.) Get familiar with this place and proceed to watch the breath. Keep breathing in and out calmly until you get familiar with your place of breathing, then watch the breath from there.
5.) Before too long you will start to notice that, as you watch your breath, the breathing calms down. You might even get to a place where it seems like it stops. If that happens then don’t worry, because breathing has an automatic behavior that tells you to breathe in after you haven’t done it for awhile.
6.) You may notice that, as your breathing calms down, your mind will calm down too, being in direct relation to the breath. This is a marvelous relationship between the breath and the mind and how they both work together.
Some meditators call this calming of the mind cessation, where the active tendencies that are common in the mind seem to cease, which we see as calm.
7.) When the mind calms down, you get a fresh feeling and can notice that it is possible to be at peace. There is always a relief when the mind calms down.
It’s good to keep watching your breath, but if any thoughts do come up you don’t have to worry, just let them be and practice non-judgemental awareness.
Just remember being present, as the observer of it all.
- For more on Mindfulness Meditation see the articles about Mindfulness Meditation
8.) Being in touch with your mind and body is what meditation is truly about, so if you get to this state there is really no reason for concern. Being at peace is a wonderful state and you would be in the perfect place for witnessing the cosmic wonder.
The experience in meditation the Chinese call ‘The Way‘ (Tao) and it can be viewed as being ‘beyond space and time.’ Many meditators seek this state and we see here that with breathing meditation you can not only calm the breath and mind but tune in to the beauty within.
This beauty is related to our true nature. For many it is the main reason for meditation.
Benefits of Breathing Meditation
Breathing meditation has some wonderful benefits we see here, most notably calming the breath and mind. Besides this we can find an inner peace that, especially when done in the morning, we can carry with us throughout the day, bringing us a harmony within ourselves that we can appreciate and even share in our dealings with others.
There are some additional benefits still which make meditating even more attractive:
You can handle whatever the day brings – You will find that meditation allows you to more easily drop into a “flow state” where you can become more adaptable to change.
You can counteract stress – Meditation offers benefits like increased happiness, better sleep, and more creativity so if there ever was a perfect solution to countering stress, it would be daily meditation.
Scientific benefits – Most likely you’ve heard about all the scientific benefits of how meditation changes your brain and rests the body.
Meditation improves your appetite and balance – When we meditate regularly the system gets balanced and the parts work together in a regular flow. When we are well managed physically and mentally the balance is reflected in our eating habits too and so our diet also becomes balanced, with less thoughts about cravings, junk food and over eating.
You have fewer headaches – Meditation has been shown to reduce pain associated with headaches, making it an ideal complement to more traditional approaches to health and wellness.
With meditation our system is in balance and our circulation is clear and clean so headaches are less likely to occur.
Meditation is a skill that can benefit us immensely and is useful even if we are in the midst of worldly situations. It is a skill that gets better with regular practice so the more you do it the better you get at it.
As you meditate be encouraged to proceed with the practice and feel supported by all the good meditators that have traveled this way before you. This inner peace is what attracts so many people to meditation and is a quality everyone can benefit from!
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